Magazine | February 19, 2018, Issue

Letter to My 15-Year-Old Self

(Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

While it’s difficult for me to properly convey just how wild things have gotten around here, let me start by telling you that as I type this letter I also occasionally gaze at a copy of the new CNN poll featuring results of a prospective 2020-election matchup between the Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Oprah Winfrey.

Oh, I should probably mention that Donald Trump, after a successful career of firing people on television, is now president of the United States. While he’s cut marginal tax rates and habitually, publicly, and savagely belittled cable-news personalities, he’s still not as popular as you’d imagine. Winfrey is now running ahead of him by ten points in a hypothetical matchup. Tom Hanks — the taller of the Bosom Buddies and also one of our generation’s finest actors! — assures America that Oprah would make an excellent president.

Another Democratic-party prospect for the presidency, by the way, is the septuagenarian red-diaper baby named Bernie Sanders. Nearly 30 years after the fall of the Soviet Union (yep!), he is one of the most popular elected Democrats in the nation. The kids love him. Capitalism won the 20th century so convincingly, I guess, that we’re giving the Commies another shot to be proven wrong.

So things, needless to say, have gotten a bit weird. To give you an idea of just how weird, consider that the other day Boy George — yes, that Boy George; Culture Club Boy George — berated me publicly for praising President Trump’s position on Iranian sanctions.

Never, not in my wildest dreams, could I ever have conjured up a situation in which I could see myself composing the previous sentence. In many ways, it’s like living in the most regrettably cast episode of The Twilight Zone ever produced. But yes, on the interactive computer platform called Twitter, a place where millions of people trade ugly barbs and speak to each other in cartoon hieroglyphics, Boy George accused me of failing to possess “other worldly knowingness” — which I regret to inform you is probably true. So stay in school. Focus on your grades. We’re already carrying supercomputers around in our pockets, delivering pizzas on flying drones, and toying around with the idea of driverless cars.

Boy George, incidentally, has a beard these days. The Iranian mullahs, on the other hand, haven’t changed one bit.

Now, I don’t want to mislead you. There are a number of serious events transpiring as we speak. As Scott Baio noted on Fox News last week, the “deep state” is trying to pull off a coup against the rightfully elected president of the United States. Or wait . . . was it Rob Reiner on a late-night comedy program (where your fellow citizens get not only most of their news but their moral guidance as well) who was warning America that we’re being led by a would-be quisling who is being blackmailed by the Russians (they’re still the bad guys)? Most of us don’t know what to make of it all.

It’s not just the actors, either. Not long ago, the entire Washington press corps spent a week debating the president’s body-mass index, trying to figure out how he can consume copious amounts of McDonald’s burgers while remaining relatively healthy for his age. A number of conspiracies about his weight popped up across cable news because we’re no longer a serious people.

You might find the solace of continuity in the fact that twelve politicians who are serving in Congress while you’re in high school will still be serving in Congress when your own kids are attending high school. Don’t. During the recent immigration debate, some of these elected officials were compelled to use a “talking stick” — you know, the baton you pass around in kindergarten that gives you the right to speak but no one else — to communicate civilly with one another. Your government has the collective maturity of a 15-year-old boy.

You should take no offense at this comparison. As I write this letter the government is trying to figure out how to stop today’s 15-year-olds from eating laundry-detergent pods and killing themselves. So, good work, Gen X.

What we’re experiencing today is idiocy contagion, and few are immune. In this era, thousands of women wearing “p***y hats” — which are exactly what they sound like — will march through the streets to protest the injustice of sexism. In this era, you can’t eat a trans-fat doughnut or smoke a cigarette in your own bar, but you can still dispose of your unborn child if it’s inconveniencing you.

On the bright side, they tell me the robots are close to gaining consciousness.

But I’ve already said too much. There is much decency in this world. For those who don’t pay attention to the day-to-day lunacy of contemporary politics, everything, doubtless, appears more pleasant and inviting. You will be among the luckiest people in human existence. Though slightly warmer (don’t worry, you won’t notice), the Earth is cleaner and the people on it will live longer lives increasingly free of poverty and war. By nearly every quantifiable measure, you can be better off today than your parents or grandparents were.

Politics? Well, not only do Americans have more freedom than ever to squander, they have the ability not to take advantage of the boundless information at their fingertips.

So please consider this letter a warning. However enticing or fascinating the prospects of becoming a political journalist might strike you in 1985, under no circumstances should you follow this dream. You’re still a young man. Get a new a dream. Dream of being a math major instead.



– Mr. Harsanyi is a senior editor of the Federalist.

David Harsanyi is a senior editor of the Federalist and the author of First Freedom: A Ride through America’s Enduring History with the Gun, From the Revolution to Today

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